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St. Mary’s Shoals Park: "The Gem of Northeast Florida"

By Kylie Cordell
Posted 3/16/23

GLEN ST. MARY – “We've got 26,042 acres," said St. Mary’s Shoals Park Patroller Steve Harvey. "It's divided basically in half."

 According to the St. Mary Shoals Park …

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St. Mary’s Shoals Park: "The Gem of Northeast Florida"


GLEN ST. MARY – “We've got 26,042 acres," said St. Mary’s Shoals Park Patroller Steve Harvey. "It's divided basically in half."

 According to the St. Mary Shoals Park website, the park encompasses separate facilities and trail systems for OHV operators and "EQUI-PED(AL)" visitors, referring to equestrian and pedestrian guests, hikers, cyclists and any other foot traffic.

"Once you go down the bridge, everything is basically ATV, side-by-sides and motorized vehicles. We have 24.2 miles of motorcycle trails and 22.6 miles of pedestrian and equestrian trails and bicycle trails," Harvey said.

St. Mary’s Shoals Park has preserved what old Florida looked like a century ago, complete with Spanish-moss-draped ancient and downed trees, and fish ponds home to catfish, bass and perch. The area has lots of wildlife, from turkeys, deer, some hogs and the occasional black bear, although Harvey said bears have never been a problem for park visitors.

"They are mostly scared of people, so they don't wander into the park too often," he said.

The park opened in 2009 and has operated through various grant funding, including the Florida Communities Trust, FRDAP, and Recreational Trails Program. "Then they added the ATV side later in 2010," Harvey said. The property is located along the Florida-Georgia border and is flanked by the St. Mary's River on its northern boundary. EQUI-PED(AL) visitors are restricted to the park's eastern section. Entrance to this facility is located at 7777 Odis Yarborough Road. OHV operators are restricted to the park's western section at 7867 Odis Yarborough Road.

"The ATV side is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The walking side is open seven days a week, morning to dusk," Harvey said. The park closes 40 minutes before sunset.

Park visitation costs $5 a day for passenger vehicles and vehicles with trailers and off-highway vehicles (OHV/ATV).   Commercial vehicles carrying more than 10 persons is $50 per day. Annual passes are available for $30 per vehicle, or $25 for Veterans and Seniors.

Besides single and multitrack riding and pedestrian and horse trails, there are many activities for families to enjoy, including nearly two miles of the tannin-stained St. Mary's River and white sandy shores.

"We also have access to Cedar Creek," Harvey said.

So what exactly is there to do at the river?

"We're just now letting people bring their kayaks to designated kayak launch points to enjoy the river," he said.

Besides kayaking, shallow banks make for a perfect area to wade in or go for a swim. If you feel like relaxing for a while, then there are plenty of places with wide sandy banks to put out a towel and sunbathe.

In addition to the various ponds scattered across the park, fishing is also available anywhere along the banks of the St. Mary's River or Ceder Creek, which runs through the middle of the park.

Other amenities include pavilions, restrooms and water access for public use. St. Mary’s Shoals Park is also the largest off-highway geocaching location in Baker County. With 2,568 acres, the county website calls it a "geocaching paradise."

Geocaching is a treasure-hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers around the property, usually with other participants. However, it's not a race but a nice walk for everyone to enjoy the area where much wildlife can be seen. And there is much more to look forward to, Harvey said.

"We are currently working with the county manager to let people camp on the property. The county is on board with it on a limited basis on primitive camping."

Although camping is not permitted on the premises, a short drive to Ocean Pond Campground in Sanderson does have first-come, first-serve amenities with water and electrical hookups.